John Clay: Polson gives Kentucky a jolt of energy

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistFebruary 9, 2013 

  • Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday
    Where: LP Field in Nashville
    TV: ESPNews
    Radio: WBUL-FM 98.1; WLAP-AM 630; WWRW-FM 105.5

OK, Jarrod Polson had a nice early run.

He was the lovable former walk-on who surprisingly scored in double digits in the season opener, who got good minutes when point guard Ryan Harrow was away with his November illness. But then Harrow returned, and the thinking was the junior from Nicholasville would return to his previous spot, glued to the bench.

Guess what?

Polson has been the glue.

"We're so happy with Jarrod Polson," UK Coach John Calipari said after his team's 72-62 win over Auburn on Saturday.

Happy enough that Polson played 20 minutes, his career high in a Southeastern Conference game. It was the seventh straight game in which the former West Jessamine star has logged double-digit minutes.

And it wasn't just the minutes. It was what Polson did in those minutes.

"It was nothing but energy," said Calipari, coupling the contribution of fellow benchmate Willie Cauley-Stein with praise for Polson. "That's all it is. Just come out and ball. Quit worrying about how you're playing for yourself, worry about our team and just bring energy."

Polson brought that and more.

"We're going to have to keep subbing guys out," Calipari said. "If you don't have enough energy, let somebody else play."

And so, when Harrow got a little three-happy early in the game, Calipari sent the signal. Out went the starting point guard, in went the backup.

Only Polson stayed in. He played 13 first-half minutes, compared to Harrow's nine. He nailed a three-pointer from the left wing at the 12:24 mark, his first three since the LIU-Brooklyn game on Nov. 23 and just the third of the year — and his UK career.

Then early in the second half, when Harrow didn't come up with a loose ball, Calipari sent the signal again. Subbing out was No. 12. Subbing in was No. 5.

And with nine minutes left, and UK ahead 54-44, Polson hustled back after a Kentucky turnover to mess up an Auburn run-out, the Tigers committing a turnover when a contested pass by Josh Wallace bounced through the hands of Auburn's Chris Denson and out of bounds.

"But see, here's my issue," Calipari said. "If you're sitting there watching the game and you see what they do and what it does, wouldn't it inspire you to do something, or do you say, well, that's fine."

Here's the thing with Polson. He's been inspired all along. Others may have seen the 6-foot-2 guard as content to just be a part of the team. But Polson never saw himself that way.

That first season, Polson didn't just play behind Brandon Knight, he went up against the now-Detroit Piston in practice. Last season, Polson didn't just back up Marquis Teague, he went against the now-Chicago Bull in practice.

Last year, Polson also practiced against Harrow, the North Carolina State transfer who was sitting out the season.

"Ryan is a really good player and a really good friend," Polson said. "We've been trying to really push each other and I think that's helped."

He also could see opportunity.

"I knew the roster would be a little thinner this year," he admitted Saturday.

When Harrow missed four games, the opening widened. When he returned, some might have thought the opening would shut tight. Polson hasn't let it happen.

"I feel more comfortable the more minutes I get," Polson said. "I don't really have pressure. I just have to go out there and defend and bring as much energy as I can. So it's pretty fun."

By game's end, Polson had played 20 minutes, scored three points, grabbed three rebounds and made two assists.

"Jarrod is just doing whatever this team needs him to do," Calipari said.

Game after game.

"Maybe a little bit," said Polson when asked if he has been surprised by his playing time this year. "But I'm really happy I'm getting the minutes I am and hopefully that will continue."

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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